The littlest big town I know

Big city... empty streets.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Cleveland. It’s a lot bigger than I expected in some ways, and yet has a very small town feel in others. Here’s just a little of what I mean: the downtown is very large, with impressive skyscrapers and very broad streets. And yet—aside from the area right around the ballpark—it has a very empty feel to it; those big broad streets hosted sparse traffic, and sometimes I’d be walking along and feel like I had the whole block to myself.

West 117th street is the western city limit, the border with the city of Lakewood, where my hotel was located. Such a large number, combined with the fact that there are quite a few East numbered streets on the other side of some boundary I couldn’t quite discern certainly suggests a very large city. Then, when I stepped into the diner on the Cleveland side of West 117th, there was a small-town feel to the atmosphere, one of the waitresses was telling anybody who would listen that Thome was back (that’s how I first learned about it in my vagabond, wifi-less condition), while several of the regulars were teasing another waitress about a picture of her as a ten-year-old that had been posted near the register.

The stadium is either the biggest intimate ballpark or else it’s the smallest big park I’ve ever seen. I know that sounds odd, let me try to explain. It takes just a glance to tell that it is definitely a Major League park, and yet it is on a fairly small piece of real estate. The seatbanks are very steep, and pressed close to the field, giving everybody a feeling of being right on top of the action—very much like a Minor League park, but bigger.

I did the one tourist attraction you have to do when in Cleveland: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. What really struck me when I was done there was just how little I had to write about. I mean, I enjoy rock, especially from the early days, but—as fascinating as the displays were—I just didn’t find much I could connect with. The only audiovisual presentation I really felt compelled to watch all the way through was one I’m sure the curators expected people to be walking in and out of, the one with the Beatles. It was a string of 3-5 minute features on each landmark album of their careers. 3-5 minutes doesn’t sound like very long, but with a short feature on more than a dozen albums, I was there quite a while. And from the crowd of people who’d sat in a semicircle around the screen—turning what the architects probably intended to be a hallway into a mini-theater, not to mention a fire hazzard—it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one.

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